The Fabergé Museum, with what is believed to be the largest collection of works by Peter Carl Fabergé and his master craftsmen, many once owned by the Russian Imperial Family, is housed in the Neoclassical Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Over 1,500 pieces, more than the celebrated collection at the Kremlin Armory Museum, have been acquired by the Link of Times Foundation, funded by Russian entrepreneur Vikto Vekselberg. Over the past ten years, the foundation has repatriated works sold by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s and 1930s, including the Imperial Coronation Egg, created in 1897 by Fabergé masters Mikhail Perkhin and Henrik Wigstrom. The collection also includes nine imperial eggs and other objects formerly owned by Malcolm Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine in New York, NY, USA, as well as bejeweled cigarette cases, exquisite cloisonné pieces and other treasures.
During our visit to the museum (before opening hours, when no one else was there) our first stop was in the “Blue Room”, home of the Fabergé Easter egg masterpieces. The house of Fabergé, founded in 1842 in St. Petersburg, manufactured a wide range of items, from unique pieces made by order of the Russian royal family, European monarchs and Easter rulers, to mass-produced goods (jewelry, silver utensils, and gemstone carving sculptures). The peak of the creative work of Carl Fabergé, who headed the family business in 1872, is considered to be his Easter eggs with surprises inside, made to the order of the last Romanovs – the Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II.
The Fabergé Museum’s collection has nine Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs, which is the second largest collection of Imperial Easter eggs in the world, being just a single egg less than in the collection of the Moscow Kremlin Armory. The Fabergé Museum’s collection is also significant because it includes the very first Imperial egg, the “Hen” egg, created in 1855, which launched the famous Imperial Easter egg series; the “Imperial Coronation” egg, 1897, dedicated to the coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna; and, finally, the last Imperial egg, 1916 – the Order of St. George egg.
The House of Fabergé created 50 Imperial eggs altogether. Each one of them took a year’s worth of work, starting just after Easter, and was barely finished by Holy Week a year later. Carl Fabergé personally delivered each new Easter masterpiece to the Tsar. Each new egg was striking for its novelty, the originality of its composition, and its virtuoso jewelry work.
Fabergé created precious Easter gifts both for the Russian Imperial family and for members of titled families and the world’s industrial elite. For example, Fabergé created a luxurious Easter egg clock in 1902 for Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough, who was a representative of the Vanderbilt clan of American tycoons [see photograph, below].
Our next stop in the museum was the “Gold Room, home of gifts from the Tsars, “objets de fantaisie” made by Fabergé masters, and gold presentation boxes.
The national coat of arms first appeared next to the name of Carl Fabergé in 1885. The double-headed eagle certified the jeweler’s right to name himself a Supplier to the Imperil Household. Business with suppliers to the household was conducted through the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty. Among other things, the Cabinet was in charge of the production, storage and issuing of Imperial gifts, called “Cabinet gifts”. These gifts were given on all sorts of occasions and events such as offerings made to the Tsar, in honor of public celebrations, diplomatic visits, and other events, as well as by personal request of the highest royalty.